Pop Review: The Nintendo 3DS XL Proves Bigger Is Sometimes Better

Surprisingly immersive 3-D gaming, anywhere

Nintendo 3DS vs 3DS XL
Dan Nosowitz

We've said it before, but our favorite application for 3-D--really, the only venue in which we don't hate it--is gaming. Nintendo just released the 3DS XL, basically a bigger version of the glasses-free 3DS we reviewed here, and it's great. Here's why.

What is it?
It's a dual-screen portable gaming system, the latest of many iterations of the Nintendo DS (others: the DS Lite, DSi, DSi XL, 3DS). This one takes the 3DS, with its glasses-free 3-D top screen and touchscreen bottom screen, and enlarges it--the top screen went from 3.53 inches (small!) to 4.88 inches (pretty big!). It also has two cameras on the rear for taking 3-D pictures or playing augmented-reality 3-D games, plus one in the front for video chat. It has Wi-Fi to download games and do a little social networking and other web stuff.

Nintendo 3DS XL Switch
Dan Nosowitz

Does it work well?
Yeah! The 3-D, when you've got it aligned right (about a foot to 18 inches away, looking head on--here's more on that), works surprisingly well. You get the "stuff flying at you" effect and the "this stuff is further away than that stuff" effect, and the increased screen size is really welcome. 3-D gaming is theoretically all about immersion, which is hard to achieve with a tiny screen. The 3DS XL? You can actually get lost in it. It rules. The physical size is actually much more comfortable for normal-adult-sized hands than the original 3DS, and I think the design is much better--cleaner, rounder. The Select, Home, and Start buttons have also been improved.

Downsides?
It's not really pocketable, at least not for me. But neither is the PlayStation Vita, and neither is a Kindle, for that matter. The bigger screen is definitely an improvement, but it also retains the same resolution, which can make things look more pixelated. The 3-D effect is fairly easy to lose--if you change the focus of your eyes by looking elsewhere, or the angle by moving your head, you kind of have to concentrate to get the effect to come back. The speaker is, curiously, not as good and not nearly as loud as the 3DS. And the games library is still a bit thin. But if you're going to make the jump into portable glasses-free 3-D gaming, the XL is definitely the way to go.